Seven institutes, seven topics, three countries

Read more below

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 20.12.13

We are the World, a discussion presented by the Heritage Group of Institutions and Calcutta Debating Circle in association with The Telegraph, saw Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford universities share the stage on Thursday with students from St. Stephen’s, Delhi, The Heritage School and the Heritage Institute of Technology. Judges Helen LaFave, the US consul-general, Malabika Sarkar, the vice-chancellor of Presidency University, and Scott Furssedonn-Wood, the British deputy high commissioner, adjudged Cambridge the winner. Here are the highlights

University of Yale

Topic: Globalisation in education. Has it failed

Andrew Connery (right) and Ben Kornfeld said it has caused brain drain from developing nations, taking away talented minds who could have helped these countries instead of “adding to those who are already wealthy”.

“Globalisation... has led to flight of the most educated and the most well-to-do, often from the developing countries, to westernised countries. Most of the times they stay back in those countries and don’t return to their own countries... and what happens is that developing countries don’t develop as fast they could,” Andrew said.

Harvard University

Topic: E-education is a dehumanising experience

Benjamin Sprung-Keyser (left) and Joshua Zoffer argued against the topic. Instead, they said e-education is a powering tool and online courses have the potential to change the quality of global education. Ben made a case for education via revolutionised learning and Josh spoke about common objections to it.

“E-learning has the potential to improve the quality of universal education because every one across the globe has access to best professors and the process is one that actually allows students to increase their collaboration with each other,” Ben said.

University of Cambridge

Topic: Does social networking erode social skills

Peter Doughton (left) and Daniel Berman of Cambridge chose to agree and disagree. Peter focused on the lack of personal touch and subtlety of body language that social networking sites are devoid of, while Daniel argued that it is a powerful tool in communicating thoughts to a larger group of people.

“The passion of Martin Luther King, the finesse of Churchill or the forgiveness of Mandela... I challenge anyone in this room to tweet in 140 characters the ‘I have a dream’ speech and get the passion across. What we gain in connection of Facebook or Twitter or Four Square we lose in the depth of those connections,” Peter said.

The Heritage School

Topic: Examination kills originality

Akanksha Maria Paul and Advay Pal, the youngest team, offered Tennyson’s line “To follow knowledge like a sinking star, Beyond the utmost bound of human thought” to highlight how exams have become cut, copy and paste — killing originality.

“If I were to draw a circle... for some it would look like a football, for some it would look like a basketball and for a foodie like me it would look like a pizza. Then how can one possibly modulate the different thinking by a standardised exam?” Akanksha argued.

St. Stephen’s College, Delhi

Topic: The life of the millennial is full of intriguing contradiction, the only certainty they can guarantee is change

With an introduction of millennials Soutik Banerjee (left) delved into their psyche. Samyobrata Mukherjee stressed how millennials can bring about change.

“There are certain things that are right.... But the generation before us does not believe in the same line. This generation can effect change but this will only be reflected upon society once we go ahead and break this barrier,” said Soutik.

Oxford University

Topic: Multi-culturalism is a myth

Alfred Hinchliffe and Gregory Farquhar (left) fought each other. “Idealist” Gregory said mutli-culturalism is necessary and should be promoted through education. “Hard-nosed” Alfie favoured a majority culture being adopted by others.

“In countries and regions where there is a majority... any sub-culture that is not given educational capacity to engage with those cultures, or allow them to get degrees and therefore achieve high-paying jobs, hampers them,” Alfred said.

Heritage Institute of Technology

Topic: Gender equality is an elusive goal

Mahashweta Paul said the way we discussed gender equality made it a Utopian concept and not a right. Team-mate Anubhave Bandhyopadhyay wanted gender equality to include gender justice.

“In India, we accord women the status of a goddess but let me ask, where is the goddess in dowry? Where is the goddess in female infanticide? Where is the goddess in rape? Where is the goddess in domestic violence?” Mahashweta asked.


WHAT: The second Alsoc Challenge Debate presented by Alumnorum Societas in association with The Telegraph and Calcutta Debating Circle

Where: St. Xavier’s College auditorium

When: December 20, 6pm

Who:Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, St. Stephen’s, Delhi, St. Xavier’s, Calcutta, Presidency University and IIM Calcutta

Motion: Higher education is essentially an exercise in elitism


Sugata Bose

Text by Chandreyee Chatterjee and Malancha Dasgupta; pictures by Anindya Shankar Ray